Sep 26, 2023

IRSC to Establish Data Campus in Okeechobee


Indian River State College (IRSC) plans to establish a dedicated, fully operational data campus in Okeechobee County, positioning the County at the epicenter of the State’s data center capacity.

The data campus, named Okee-One, is the primary focus of economic revitalization for the former Okeechobee “School for Boys” site. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed HB1603 transferring ownership of the 205-acre parcel to the College in June. The site is well-positioned adjacent to data superhighways; the inland placement offers natural protection from coastal storm threats.

Michael Hageloh

“Between access to dense fiber, natural gas, and land availability for solar backup and an existing water reclamation facility for cooling, the possibility of establishing the nation’s most sustainable data campus here in Okeechobee is within reach,” shares IRSC Executive Vice President for Strategic Initiatives Dr. Michael Hageloh.

IRSC received universal support from its legislative delegation, especially from Senator Erin Grall and Representative Kaylee Tuck, the latter having sponsored and shepherded HB1603 through the local bill process in the Florida House of Representatives.

The support of Governor DeSantis bolstered the project. Collaboration with the Okeechobee community and a strategic partnership with the South Florida Water Management District enhanced the effort.

“Our governmental leaders and community partners avidly share our vision to advance economic uplift in the area, grow employment opportunities and serve as the foreground for unique IRSC education and training programs in one of the world’s fastest-growing sectors, and for that, we are grateful,” continues Hageloh.

The data campus will serve as a learning lab for IRSC students and a stable employment base for its graduates and other residents from Okeechobee and surrounding communities. The project would include servers, storage, network gear, racks, power distribution systems, transformers, chillers and generators. A skilled workforce to support an infrastructure that runs 24/7 will require a wide range of trained professionals in areas such as information technology and cybersecurity, electronics engineering technology, electrical power technology, HVAC, plumbing, and physical security.

Worldwide, technological advances are increasing the demand for data centers. Okee-One will house many types of data centers in a lifestyle campus environment.  According to a June 27, 2023, article in The New York Times, “the need for data centers has rapidly increased, fueled by changing work habits during the pandemic and the growth of cloud-based technologies.”

Once a cultural assessment of the land is complete, IRSC intends to move with velocity to bring the data campus to fruition.

“This undertaking underscores IRSC’s role as a leader in education and innovation and its mission to transform lives,” said Hageloh.

College leadership recently completed $100 million in growth-oriented, workforce-enhancing construction projects during 2023, including a charter high school in Indiantown, an expanded School of Nursing in Port St. Lucie and a state-of-the-art workforce training facility in Fort Pierce. “The data campus aligns with President Moore’s vision for transforming the College from solely a learning environment into the catalyst for economic clusters where graduates can live, work, and continue learning,” Hageloh concluded.